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Labour MEP Calls For Blackpool Shale Gas Ban

Shelagh Parkinson, Blackpool Gazette

Calls have been made for a local referendum to be held on fracking.

Blackpool Lib Dem councillor Douglas Green says residents should be able to have their say on whether the drilling procedure should go ahead.

Coun Green made the call after visiting Cuadrilla Resources’ Westby site at Anna’s Road.

He said it was vital people had access to independent information about all the advantages and disadvantages of fracking.

Coun Green added: “What we actually need is more independent public information on the advantages, safeguards and real risk assessments in order that the public can make informed choices about if we want fracking on the Fylde coast.

“I would call on the local councils to organise a local referendum on the issue of fracking, and a separate vote about underground gas storage, run perhaps at the same time as the county council elections next year.

“Local councils should then call upon all local government, national government and international companies to honour the decisions of such a referendum.”

Local referendums can be held on substantial planning issues.

Richmond Council is proposing to hold one into plans to expand Heathrow Airport.

A spokesman for Cuadrilla Resources said: “We support any initiatives to improve the level of information to local people.”

The company says fracking – the practice of drilling deep underground and firing down water and chemicals to break up rock and release gas – is safe and will have huge benefits for the Fylde coast, but the practice remains suspended after fracking in Weeton allegedly caused earth tremors last year.

The Government is expected to give fracking the go-ahead imminently.

Meanwhile, following a debate in the European Parliament this week, Euro MPs have rejected a ban on shale gas but have called for a robust regulatory regime to address environmental and other concerns.

Fylde Euro MP Paul Nuttall, of UKIP, described fracking as “probably the most exciting development in the sphere of energy since North Sea oil” and said it could create tens of thousands of jobs in the North West.

Mr Nuttall, who is also a member of the EU Environment Committee, added: “Shale gas can provide us with much needed energy security because we can become more self-sufficient.”

But Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy, who also represents the Fylde, warned: “Fracking must be banned in sensitive areas, and all fracking should be subject to an environmental impact assessment.”

Philip Mitchell, chairman of Blackpool and Fylde Green Party, welcomed the EU report.

He said: “It’s important because it recognises there are potential risks not yet fully understood.”

Blackpool Gazette, 24 November 2012